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Bounce Email handling with PHP?

Posted by: admin November 29, 2017 Leave a comment


Here is my scenario:

I have 2 email accounts: [email protected] and [email protected]

I want to send email to all my users with [email protected] but then “reply to” [email protected] (until here, my PHP script can handle it).

When, the email can’t be sent, it’s sent to [email protected], the error message could be 553 (non existent email …) etc.

My question is: How do I direct all those bounce emails (couldn’t-sent emails) to [email protected] through a handling script to check for the bounce error codes?

What programming language should I be using for the “handling script”?

What would the “handling script” look like? Can you give a sample?

in other words:

What are the procedures I should follow to handle the bounce email ?


The best scenario is be able to classify the type of bounce: soft, hard…

what we use is BounceStudio. You need to compile it and add the php libraries… not hard at all. You have the free and paid version of that product

once we detect the kind of bounce we use PEAR::MAIL::MIME to search for custom headers that we added previously to the email, lets say:

X-user-id: XXXXX
X-campaign-id: YYYYYY 
X-recipient-id: SSSSSSSSS

in this way we can know the real recipient that we sent the email to.

hope this help you! so you can help me to get to the 500 points 😛


Why not create a [email protected] and use php to read those emails and do what ever you want?

Edit After your comment : Please chec my link whcih has a php script which will teach you how to open and email box using php and read the emails. You can use this scrip to check the error messages.


Let the emails bounce to an address that is really an emailadress (with login details etc.).

Make a php script which runs ever x minutes (for example with a cron job). This php script must do the following.
– Retrieve all email from the box (use for example Zend Mail)
– Check for the error in the message (e.g. by searching it with regular expressions)
– Do what ever is necessary.

If you want to know specifically who has bounced back you can use user specific bounce addresses. (See for example this site)


Maybe it’s a little late for the answer, but you can always try something new.
I had the last week a task like this, and used BOUNCE HANDLER Class, by Chris Fortune, which chops up the bounce into associative arrays – http://www.phpclasses.org/browse/file/11665.html

This will be used after you connect to the POP3 with some mailer to get the bounces from it, then parse it into pieces with this, and if has the status you searched for, do the necessary actions.



If you’ve got a POP3 mailbox set up for [email protected], you could use a POP3 client script written in PHP to retrieve the messages and check for undeliverable messages.


You should look at SwiftMailer. It’s completely written in PHP and has support for “bounce” emails.


You could always use something like http://cloudmailin.com to forward the bounced emails on to your php server via http however you may be better with a service dedicated to sending emails and using their api to retrieve the bounce details.


i have had pretty bad luck looking for a PHP solution for this, but i ran across this product that does just what i needed.

it runs as a native app mac/win but it does the job.



I was searching for the answer to the same question. There are more parts of the question, and more options.

For handling the bounced e-mail, I found a PHP class, purely in PHP, no compile or additional software installation needed if you have a PHP powered site. It is very easy to use.

If you are using cPanel, or InterWorx/SiteWorx, you can configure some of the addresses to handle the received e-mails with a script, for example a PHP script, so you can write your own handling with the aid of the mentioned class. Or of course still you can create ordinary e-mail accounts and retrieve the mails via POP3 or IMAP, and then interpret them. I think the first one is better, because it’s direct, you don’t have to use additional channels, like IMAP. Of course if you can’t configure your mail server, or don’t know how to do it, then the former is better for you.

Good luck! 🙂


In the php mail command http://php.net/mail

you use the fifth parameter and add “-f” to it.

So, you use “-f [email protected]” as the parameter

the phpList newsletter manager uses this to manage bounces.

Once the bounces fill up in the mailbox, you can POP them, and process them. That’s the easiest way to deal with them, as opposed to handling them when they arrive.


Here is a canned solution to process bounces using IMAP.

I changed the Return-Path header of my Mail instance to a dedicated [email protected]

The only method easy enough for me to consider viable is the following, which checks via POP3 the dedicated inbox and can handle each email based on the message received.

$inst=pop3_login('mail.xxxxxx.us','110','[email protected]','pass');
    echo "begin process<br><br>";
    foreach($list as $row){
                echo "handle hard bounce".$msg."<br><br>";
            echo "not from my server. could be spam, etc.".$msg."<br><br>";
        //imap_delete ( resource $imap_stream , int $msg_number [, int $options = 0 ] )
        //commented out because I havent implemented yet. see IMAP documentation
    echo "no unread messages";  

//imap_close ( resource $imap_stream [, int $flag = 0 ] )
//commented out because I havent implemented yet. see IMAP documentation.
//flag: If set to CL_EXPUNGE, the function will silently expunge the mailbox before closing, removing all messages marked for deletion. You can achieve the same thing by using imap_expunge()

function pop3_login($host,$port,$user,$pass,$folder="INBOX",$ssl=false) 
    return (imap_open("{"."$host:$port/pop3$ssl"."}$folder",$user,$pass)); 
function pop3_stat($connection)        
    $check = imap_mailboxmsginfo($connection); 
    return ((array)$check); 
function pop3_list($connection,$message="") 
    if ($message) 
    } else { 
        $MC = imap_check($connection); 
        $range = "1:".$MC->Nmsgs; 
    $response = imap_fetch_overview($connection,$range); 
    foreach ($response as $msg) $result[$msg->msgno]=(array)$msg; 
        return $result; 
function pop3_retr($connection,$message) 
function pop3_dele($connection,$message) 


We are using Procmail to filter these kind of mails. After examining some of the solutions already mentioned here, we ended up with a simple Procmail recipe to detect bounce messages. Depending on the accuracy you need, this might be applicable to your situation.

For details, check this blog entry.


I had the same problem, exact situation. By default my mail server, is sending all my returned mails to the same account that it was originally sent from, with automatic msg “Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender”.

I dont really want to know why it was returned, had so many mails transactions that I just want to remove the bad ones. Dont have time to check specific rule such as Doestn Exist, Unavailable, etc ,,, Just want to flag for deletion and go on.

Bounce mails are so trivial as you need to deal with a lot of different servers and responses types. Each anti spam software or operating system scenario can send a different error code with the bounced email.

I recomend you to read and download this fixed debugged version of Handling Bounced Email – USING PHPMAILER-BMH AND AUTHSMTP from KIDMOSES here http://www.kidmoses.com/blog-article.php?bid=40 if you want to setup IMAP and and send your own custom headers, send them to your [email protected] and then cross your fingers to see if the script catches the headers you sent written in the bounced mail. I tried it, works.

But if you want to follow my quick and easy fix that resolved my problem, here is the secret.

1 – Download the better version from KIDMOSES site or from my site, just in case KIDMOSES want to move somewhere else http://chasqui.market/downloads/KIDMOSES-phpmailer-bmh.zip

2 – The variable that contains the text of your returned mail is $body and itself contains the bad returned email (SO ITS AN MULTIDIMENSIONAL ARRAY ). (Also contains your servers mail and other DNS mails stuff, but we are looking for the BAD MAIL BOUNCED.

3 – Since your OWN SERVICE is sending you back the bounced email, then its not likely to change its format and own headers, sending back bounced emails, so you are safe to pick the order of bounced email array returned. In my case was always the same format template. (Unless you change systems or providers)

4 – We look into that $body and search for all email string variables and extract them positioning them into a two dimensional array called $matches

5 – We select the array position, by printing the array using print_r( array_values( $matches ));

6 – This is the code that you need to modify. Its around line 500 from class.phpmailer-bmh.php file

  // process bounces by rules
  $result = bmhDSNRules($dsn_msg,$dsn_report,$this->debug_dsn_rule);
} elseif ($type == 'BODY') {
  $structure = imap_fetchstructure($this->_mailbox_link,$pos);
  switch ($structure->type) {
    case 0: // Content-type = text
      $body = imap_fetchbody($this->_mailbox_link,$pos,"1");
      $result = bmhBodyRules($body,$structure,$this->debug_body_rule);

      //MY RULE IT WORKS at least on my return mail system..
      $pattern = '/[a-z0-9_\-\+][email protected][a-z0-9\-]+\.([a-z]{2,3})(?:\.[a-z]{2})?/i';
      preg_match_all($pattern, $body, $matches);
        //print_r( array_values( $matches ));     //To select array number of bad returned mail desired, usually is 1st array $matches[0][0]          
        echo "<font color = red>".$matches[0][0]."</font><br>";

So we forget about returned headers and concentrate on the bad emails. You can excel them, you can MySQL them, or process to whatever you want to do.

Comment the echos in callback_echo.php in the samples directory otherwise you get all the junk before printed.

function callbackAction ($msgnum, $bounce_type, $email, $subject,      $xheader, $cheader, $remove, $rule_no=false, $rule_cat=false, $rule_msg='', $totalFetched=0) {
  $displayData = prepData($email, $bounce_type, $remove);
  $bounce_type = $displayData['bounce_type'];
  $emailName   = $displayData['emailName'];
  $emailAddy   = $displayData['emailAddy'];
  $remove      = $displayData['remove'];
  //echo "<br>".$msgnum . ': '  . $rule_no . ' | '  . $rule_cat . ' | '  . $bounce_type . ' | '  . $remove . ' | ' . $email . ' | '  . $subject . ' | ';
  //echo 'Custom Header: '  . $cheader . " | ";
  //echo 'Bounce Message: '  . $rule_msg . " | ";
  return true;


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